Camel Fodder

Posted by sepoy on April 11, 2005 · 2 mins read

Following Qatar's lead, UAE has decided to replace kidnapped South Asian children with robots as jockeys in the most popular camel races.

Camel racing is as old as the two oldest bedouins with camels and a long stretch of desert turf. In the Roman accounts of Syria and the Hadramawt, there are mentions of horse and camel races as the sports du jour. Kidnapping children from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan is fairly new, I guess. I am sure other slaves from other climes filled this unspectactular role in times past. I further venture to guess that this news is welcome. Robots for children - and let us have a round of applause for the enlightenment sweeping across the Gulf region.

I hesitate to let out my full bile on the sub-human status of expats from South and East Asia in the Gulf. Anyone there can tell you about the muwattin [citizens] and the wafid [newcomer]. Suffice to say, that the oasis in the desert that is Dubai or Doha was watered by blood of these workers. And I mean that literally. With the barest of rights and at the mercy of the intemperate kafil [citizen-sponsor for every migrant], the migrant faces incredible racism and exploitation. The citizen gets everything - first - while open scorn [and physical violence] is reserved for those that are building the Burj al-Dubai. Rapes and abuse of housemaids; public beatings of drivers and sweepers and, even skilled professionals, by citizens are commonplace. The exploitation of maids, engineers, children and unskilled workers by the Gulf countries continues and will continue until they are able to unite and ask for rights. Bahrain is seeing some signs of such activity.

In trolling around for information on the current popularity of the sport, I happened across this gem of a website ["... Instead, check out the beauty of these magnificent camels running at full speed". indeed.]. There is a camel race in Nevada, natch.

update: Mental Mayhem, a Doha blog I usually enjoy, has a post about Camel racing that I find almost offensive in its naivete. Perhaps thats a bit harsh. So go see what a Day At the Camel Races looks like.


nomadica | April 11, 2005

It's interesting how the Gulf News article that you link to doesn't even mention the issue of human rights concerning the child jockeys. I watched a documentary/TV show last year here in the US that showed the efforts of Ansar Burney, a Pakistani human rights activist, to try and campaign for the release of these children. The footage that he managed to obtain from the UAE was shocking. I'm surprised that more noise hasn't been made about this? I grew up in the Persian Gulf and never even heard about it until I moved to the US and saw it on TV.

Umar | April 12, 2005

I grew up in Qatar myself... I recall watching the Prince and Princess of Wales being treated to camel races on one of their visits to Saudi Arabia... Diana's commitment to human rights was probably still a few years away...

wanderer | April 12, 2005

i worked auditing labor standards in clothing factories in south asia. we saw some bad stuff, however, nothing compared to the horrendous conditions and abuse we saw in dubai. most of the workers in the factories are sri lankan/bangladeshi/indian/or pakistani. a few (required by law) are actually from the uae. the arabs worked in separate rooms, with wonderful amenities, and far less pressure. whereas the south asians worked in sweaty little boxes facing beatings, curses, and what i would consider torture. sadly, there aren't even monitoring agencies in the region and all the auditors had to be brought in from south asia. i could go on, but i think you get the picture.

Sin | April 13, 2005

Yet another reason as to why I don't want to move to Dubai. On the plus side, I suppose one could see the replacement of children with robots Sort of? At least we know they're not Luddites.

SULTAN ASIF | April 13, 2005

I have watched the weekly and annual camel races in QATAR for many years and even visited the camps where the camel are kept and the so called JOCKEYS, poor and innocent children who sacrifice their life and future to please the wealthy. The racing camels cost Millions of Riyals and are very well looked after. This is a very common festivity in the Gulf states. The annual race between GCC countries attracts many and the prizes of Golden swords and millions of Riyals are offered to the winners. The Emir sponsors these occasions and distribute the prizes. What is happening in GCC states, what are the plights and conditions of the Expatriate labour, Engineers; Doctors and domestic servants: it is appauling and dreadful. These are the worst example of human dignity and honour being disgraced but the most interesing thing is that all the people who love to enter and work in these Islamic states, for better money and living conditions, get insults and discriminations by the sponsors ( KAFEELS ) The 9/11 tragedy, though horrrible, had the result of deportation of many who were living there illegally for many years and also raised a hue and cry and dangerous alarms of abuse of human rights. But we have yet to get the real picture of discrimination and violation of human rights in these GCC states. One wonders why people have ignored that for so many decades and have been happily trying to enter the land of Riyals and Dirhams and Dinars. Perhaps those who got Riyals have the right to enjoy the type of entertainment, they can afford. We should safeguard our interests and keep away to be victimised. Most of the children are abducted by interested groups from south asian countries and smuggled into GCC states and put on camel back to drive the Land Crusiser...the favourite of many with true choice to kill himself or survive ??? WHO CARES IF AN INNOCENT LIFE IS DESTROYED IN THE DESERT OF AMUSEMENT. These views are expressed with out prejudice to anyone and based on facts.

SULTAN ASIF | April 13, 2005

Please replace "LEGAL" with " ILLEGAL" in my above comments. Thanks

k | April 14, 2005

Hi, I agree with you about the treatment meted out to people from South Asia in the Middle East. One of my friends who lived there for quite a while told me that there is essentially a racial hierarchy in place. My fondest wish is that the tables be soon turned. The UAE and other middle eastern nations base a large portion of their economy on expat labour. Hopefully with the rising economic muscle of India, and hopefully soon the rest of South Asia, the middle east nations will soon be in a position where they have to "improve" their relations with South Asia and will not be able to survive on expat labour. At least with the UAE, its oil reserves are not what they were, and this is very useful in leverage.

david | June 03, 2005

Hi , Just thought you might like to check out a Quick Tour on the page herewith -- it explains what it's all about. 'Experience the reality of Satan's kingdom, the absence of ethical values and principles !' ( )

Naheed Anjum | December 22, 2005 Ansar Burney a great HERO of human rights who saved thousands of children from modern days slavery in UAE and Qatar.

Jannet | January 08, 2006

Ansar Burney, ( ) is one who has worked tirelessly for the improvement of prisoners in jails, saved thousands of innocent underage children from modern days slavery (child camel jockeys). And taken in high esteem by Pakistanis.

Jany | January 17, 2006

Ansar Burney is a name of an 'Angel' of God a 'Saint' a great human being whose great efforts changed the history in Middle Eastern countries that saved thousands of young children as much as 3 to 7 from modern day's slavery Ansar Burney saved thousands of young children from modern day slavery. These children ages 3 to 7 were on slavery for 17 to 18 hours a day, seven days a week and 364 days a year.

najeeb | February 23, 2006

It is true that in UAE.... ...ther is racism against south-asians. Stereotyping and calling names by the nationals or other Arabs or common. ...person from a western nation gets treated better than an asian in Dubai. ...Has seperate que in the airport for south asians at the arrival ... You will be probably mistreated as an asian at a high end shop like Armani or Prada, provided the salesman blocks you right at the entrance and tells you not to enter by posing questions like "Excuse me! can I help you? Can u afford?" The Armani in twin towers, Deira, dubai is an example. ... Lebanese, Palestinians and Egyptians generally refer South Asian immigrants as somebody below them ... pakistanis are stinking people and only makes taxi driver according to many in Dubai ... there is an aparthied colony in Dubai where only white people can rent houses places in areas like Jumeirah. ... For many years the Irish pub (like handful of others) was only open to Europeans or people who looks like europeans. Like a lebanese friend of mine from Golan passed off as a french man many times, I was stopped and asked to leave on the grounds of bieng Indian. And when confronted he remarked "who cares for browny dogs" ...All the menial jobs are exclusively reserved for (Malabari) a racist word for anyone who looks Indian, Bengali, Pakistani, Srilankan, Philipino etc., ...every philipino, russian and central asian women are whores ...children used for camel races are poor muslim children from south asian countrie, this generally shows the Gulf Arabs has no value for human life ...Women has no voting rights ... As a south asian my passport is held by a sponsor who can drive me into slave labour and get away with it ... Till recently the courts had known to be siding the Arab citizens in labour related cases have no freedom of expression, right of speech. ... This is the second country who recognized Taliban as a government and now desperately trying to cover up the folly to Impress there Western allies ... I was racially abused for more than 50 times in 3 years. Example: An east european woman wont serve me coffee at Diera mall saying she doesn't have the particular order. But, serves it to western looking man next table. When confronted, "She just brushed it away by grimmacing at me", Supprisingly she was a Philipino.